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19th Hole
News and Opinion

Golf Blogs: Brooks Koepka,

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Date CreatedMost Popular

Sean Donnelly
McIlroy can draw confidence from gritty performance at Bethpage
May 24, 2019 12:02 PM
 
There was good reason to feel optimistic regarding Rory McIlroy’s hopes of ending a four-year major championship trophy drought at the 101st US PGA Championship at Bethpage Black last week. After all, the 30-year-old arrived into New York with eight top-10s to his name through nine starts in 2019, including a runners-up finish to Dustin Johnson at the WGC-Mexico Championship in February and an emphatic single-stroke victory away from Jim Furyk at The Players Championship in March. McIlroy’s chances were further boosted by the wet, blustery conditionsthat buffeted the New York coastline last week; in addition to enhancing the premium a lengthy track such as Bethpage Black naturally places on distance off the tee, such conditions also served to slow the putting surface and cultivate the soft, receptive landing areas on which the Irishman’s approach game thrives. Put simply, everything appeared to be in place for the world No.4 to storm to a third US PGA Championship title. Rory McIlroy was T125 at one point on Friday.He's currently T13 at the PGA Championship. pic.twitter.com/3ifWZZOlEU— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) 19 May 2019 As it turned-out, however, McIlroy never even came close to exerting pressure on the run-away champion, Brooks Koepka and needed, ultimately, to content himself with a T8 finish at 1-over for the tournament, nine strokes back from the winner. But despite this disappointment, the four-time major champion departed New York with a smile on his face, affirming a genuine sense of confidence in his game. Such sentiments can only be understood properly when one reflects on his T8 finish in the broader context of his overall performance in the tournament. After all, an indifferent 2-over opening-round 72 immediately put McIlroy on the back-foot and he teed-off on Friday a full eight-strokes shy of Koepka’s overnight lead. When he dropped five shots within the first three holes of his second-round to slump to seven over par, he seemed certain to miss a first cutin 14-months. A stunning, 4-under back-nine, however, was sufficient to ensure that the former world No.1 snuck into the weekend within a stroke of the cut-mark, and he carded back-to-back rounds of 69 over the weekend to seal an unlikely top-10 finish – his ninth such result in 10 starts since the beginning of the year. 'I just need to play the first 27 holes better,' McIlroy said. 'I played the last 45 in six under par, which was good on a tough course on a tough weekend. It's really tough out there today, but I tried to the very end. 'I could have let my head go down in the middle of that second round and be home in Florida right now, but I wanted to be here for the weekend and I'm glad I could make the most of the opportunity I had to play the extra couple of days. 'Today it's so tough out there, I've moved up the leaderboard quite a lot, and my goal at the start of the day was to get into the top 10. I’m happy with that.’ Clearly, a golfer of McIlroy’s calibre is focused on major titles, not top-10s. But for an athlete accused frequently of lacking the mental toughness required to grind in the face of adversity to pull a top-10 out of the fire in the manner that McIlroy did in New York is impressive and bodes well for his hopes of winning one of the season’s two remaining majors. We may well be observing a new, more mentally robust Rory McIlroy. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Spieth sees light at end of tunnel following T3 at Bethpage
May 22, 2019 12:54 PM
 
Cast your minds back to the weeks leading-up to the Masters Tournament last month. One could scarcely open a news site or turn on a television without being bombarded by commentators discussing Rory McIlroy’s chances of completing a career Grand Slam at Augusta. As it turned out, of course, the Northern Irishman was unable to unable to claim a maiden green jacket in Georgia,finishing in a tie for 21st; however, the intensity of the media speculation surrounding his chances reflected, ultimately, the outstanding consistency that he has exhibited through the first four months of 2019. Put simply, there was good reason to anticipate the 30-year-old getting the job done at Augusta. Contrast this with the tenor of media coveragesurrounding Jordan Spieth’s quest to complete a career Grand Slam of his own at last week’s US PGA Championship at Bethpage Black. Not even @JordanSpieth could believe it.Pleasing the crowd en route to victory.#TOURVault pic.twitter.com/4IzbKBz0eA— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) 22 May 2019 The 25-year-old travelled to New York in the midst of his worst run of form since making his major championship breakthrough at the Masters back in 2015. He had failed to register a single top-20 finish through 13 starts in 2019 and hadn’t cracked a top-10 since tying for ninth at The Open at St Andrews last summer. Indeed, Spieth has not won a PGA Tour event since claiming his third major title in dramatic fashion at the 2017 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale and had consequently tumbled as low as No.39 in the Official World Golf Rankings. Suffice to say, there were not many fans or commentators tipping the Texan to end his barren run against an elite field on one of the hardest courses in US golf. This is the context in which Spieth’stied-third finish at Bethpage Blacklast week needs to be assessed. For although he never came close to supplanting the seemingly indominable champion, Brooks Koepka at the summit of the leaderboard, he strung together four quality rounds for the first time since the turn of the year and, crucially, rediscovered a semblance of his former consistency on the putting-green. Indeed, Spieth gained 10.6 strokes on the field with his putterin New York, more than three shots better than anyone else (Luke List was second, at 7.2) and tallied an astonishingly low 394 feet, 4 inches of putts for the tournament, making it the best statistical putting week of his PGA Tour career (per Justin Ray). Not bad for a golfer mired in a slump. “This is the best I’ve felt in quite a while. I’m very happy,” said Spiethahead of this week’s Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club near Fort Worth in Texas, an event he won three years ago. “I have full belief in my process, my mentality, my selfishness and my work ethic. “I put in more hours over the last five months than I’ve ever put in my game in a five-month stretch, just trying to get to where I can be. “I don’t know if I have to change my attitude. I’ve just been waiting patiently for this work to continue to get better but it’s very positive going forward, yes. “I felt like I made progress and I feel like I can go to a course that I’ve had success at, and is a way better fit for me I think than Bethpage.” The Texan may well be on the cusp of a long-awaited revival. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Johnson departs Bethpage with regret after near-miss at PGA Championship
May 21, 2019 2:24 AM
 
Speaking to the media in the aftermath of his runners-up finish to long-time friend and training-partner, Brooks Koepka at the 101st US PGA Championship at Bethpage Black on Sunday, Dustin Johnson struck an amusingly sardonic note. Asked how it felt to became only the eighth player in the history of golf to finish in second at all four major championships, Johnson adopted a tone of mock enthusiasm: “Yay, I’m so excited.” “It’s a little frustrating sometimes just because I've had quite a few chances, and I've felt like a few of them I really didn't do anything wrong”, he continued. “I played well. But that's just how it is. It's hard to win majors. If it was easy, a lot of guys would have a lot more than they do.” Frustrating, indeed. Johnson, who finished a single stroke shyof Tiger Woods’ winning-total at the Masters last month, teed-off for the final-round at Bethpage Black with a seven-stroke deficit to the seemingly indominable 54-hole leader, Koepka. Clearly, no one expected the 34-year-old to triumph from such a position of adversity, and while he impressed in completing a 3-under front-nine in difficult conditions, Koepka retained a four-shot advantage at the turn and needed only to any avoid major errors to deny Johnson a route back into the tournament. Dustin Johnson is now 1 shot back after 4 straight bogeys from Brooks Koepka.#PGAChamp pic.twitter.com/VDwVgEj5h1— PGA of America (@PGA) 19 May 2019 But Koepka did falter, bogeying four-holes in a row between the 12th and 15th; by the time Johnson stepped onto the 16th tee-box, therefore, the lead had been reduced to a single strokeand the momentum of the tournament had shifted decisively in his favour. All he needed to do was ram-home his advantage, add another birdie through the closing three-holes, and watch Koepka capitulate. In this respect, Johnson failed emphatically, bogeying the 16th and 17th consecutively to effectively hand the Wannamaker Trophy to a crumbling leader. He ultimately finished in outright second at 6-under despite being one of just 10 players to break par in extremely difficult conditions on Sunday (his score of 69 bested by just two players). It marked the occasion of his tenth top-10 finish in his past 16 major startsand his ninth such career top-5. Of course, Johnson’s near-miss last weekend is not on the level of his three-putt on the final green at Chambers Bay in 2015 to hand the U.S. Open to Jordan Spieth. Or the final-round implosion at Pebble Beach in 2010 that cost him a chance at the U.S. Open. Or even the wayward iron shot in 2011 at Royal St. George's that led to a runner-up finish at The Open. However, the 2016 U.S. Open is beginning to look conspicuously lonely in Johnson’s trophy cabinet, and while his record of 20 PGA Tour victories dwarfs Koepka’s six, the fact that four of Koepka’s six titles have been majors is ultimately why he now ranks above Johnsonat the summit of the Official World Golf Rankings. Johnson is undoubtedly correct to assert that it is better to contend and lose than not contend at all at major championship level; nevertheless, the fact remains that he should be a multiple major winner. At some point, the close calls become more negative than positive. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Koepka survives wobble to claim fourth major at US PGA Championship
May 20, 2019 4:31 AM
 
Well, that was a little closer than we had anticipated. Just hours after this blog referredto the upcoming final-round of the 101st US PGA Championship at Bethpage Black Golf Course in New York as a Brooks Koepka victory ‘procession’, the seemingly untouchable 54-hole leader came within a hair’s breadth of orchestrating one of the most dramatic back-nine capitulations in major championship history. Playing alongside Woods, Koepka opened the tournament 63-65 to card the lowest ever halfway total at a major (128); an even-par third-round of 70 was consequently sufficient to ensure he teed off on Sunday with a seven-stroke advantage away from a demoralised chasing-pack headed by Dustin Johnson. Bogey on the 11th hole. Bogey on the 12th hole. Bogey on the 13th hole. Bogey on the 14th hole. Brooks Koepka leads by 1 at the PGA Championship. pic.twitter.com/jxsfREQsoa — PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) 19 May 2019 Koepka began his final-round solidly, content merely to protect his lead in difficult, blustery conditions, and reached the turn at Evens for the day. Johnson, meantime, produced by far his best golf of the week to complete the front-nine in 32, closing to within four-shots of the lead. His interest thus piqued, Koepka stuffed his tee shot on the short par-3 10th. On cue, Johnson bogeyed No. 11 out of a greenside bunker, Koepka brushed in his birdie putt and the lead was back to six with eight holes to play. However, a series of loose swings led to four consecutive bogies for Koepka beginning at the 11th and when Johnson birdied the 15th, the lead was down to a single stroke. Suddenly, the steely aura of invincibility that possessed Koepka during the first 64-holes began to dissipate, and the 29-year-old was faced with the prospect of enduring a potentially career-altering collapse. But Johnson blinked first, making two straight bogies at holes 16 and 17 to provide the leader with some much-needed breathing space; Koepka did what he had to do to nab the Wannamaker Trophy by two-shots. Clearly, no golfer would elect to win a major championship courtesy of a 4-over closing-round 74; however, the unconvincing nature of Koepka’s Sunday showing should not detract from the overall scale of his accomplishment. The Floridian has now won four of the last eight major championships he has contested, equalling Rory McIlroy’s career-haul in the space of a little over two-years, and he has drawn to within a single title of matching the major championship records of historic greats such as Seve Ballesteros and Phil Mickelson. With his brooding intensity and contrarian streak, Koepka may never enjoy the widespread love he deserves; indeed, his stoicism in victory and defeat has led many fans and pundits to dismiss him as emotionless and dull. However, that is precisely the temperament that enables the former Challenge Tour memberto contend and triumph consistently at the sport’s four biggest events and, frankly, Koepka’s indifference to public opinion and refusal to kowtow to commercial interests is a welcome antidote to the social media-fuelled superficiality that characterises the comportment of so many of his peers. Koepka, who has no club sponsoror social media profile, is an oasis of sporting purity in a commercially-obsessed age; he rightly stands atop the summit of the Official World Golf Rankings. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Koepka tightens grip at PGA Championship
May 19, 2019 11:54 AM
 
Under normal circumstances, the sight of the 36-hole leader of a major championship missing a 6-foot birdie putt on the opening-hole of his third-round would provide a source of hope to the chasing-pack, hinting that the front-runner might be set to crack under pressure. But these are not ordinary circumstances. From the moment Brooks Koepka opened-up a 5-stroke second-round lead at Bethpage Black Golf Course in New York on Friday, the 101st US PGA Championship has been possessed of the air of a procession. This sense inevitability was reinforced when Koepka rallied to birdie his second-hole on Saturday, thus swiftly quashing whatever nascent sense of optimism spread briefly among a demoralised field. By the time the leader slipped up again, from inside 3ft at the par-4 9th, his lead was a mere seven shots. Lowest PGA Championship 18-hole score.Lowest major championship 36-hole score.Largest PGA Championship 54-hole lead....and with a win tomorrow, Brooks Koepka would become the first player to hold two back-to-back major championship titles at the same time. pic.twitter.com/ayhpSQlmTI— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) 18 May 2019 Koepka ultimately signed for an even-par third-round of 70 on Saturday, and will consequently tee-off for the final-round with a seven-stroke advantageaway from a publicly forlorn chasing-pack. Jazz Janewattananond, Harold Varner III, Luke List and Dustin Johnson are tied at the summit of the tournament within the tournament. Barring the vague possibility of an extraordinary Sunday collapse from the leader, those golfers look set to be playing for a runners-up finish. Inevitably, perhaps, the extent of Koepka’s dominationthrough the first 54-holes at Bethpage Black have drawn comparisons with Tiger Woods, who missed the cut on Friday. Woods, in his all-conquering prime,led fields a similarly merry dancein golf’s biggest tournaments; one thinks, for example, of his 12-stroke victory away from Tom Kite at the 1997 Masters Tournament or his 15-stroke win away from Ernie Els and Miguel Ángel Jiménez at the 2000 US Open. However, such cavernous margins of victory have grown increasingly rare at events of all levels in recent years as the elite-level of the sport has grown increasingly competitive; this circumstance serves only to set the scale of Koepka’s accomplishment in New York this week in sharper relief. Of course, some will complain that the emphatic nature of Koepka’s impending victory has rendered the PGA Championship a dull event, depriving fans of the heightened sense of drama that only a final-round major championship shoot-out can provide. However, perishingly few players, fans or commentators articulated such perspectives at the height of Tiger’s domination, and it is difficult not to feel as though this interpretive contrast is rooted in aesthetics. Woods’ playing style, though relentless, clinical and ruthless, was always punctuated with moments of stunning artistry and inventiveness that only players of the very highest technical and strategic calibre are capable of producing. Koepka, by contrast, is defined by his functionality and, as the Guardian’s Ewan Murray notes, ‘the sight of thousands of spectators heading for Bethpage’s exit with the leader still in the early stages of his back nine was revealing. He does not seem to be the captivating viewing that Woods once was.’ Either that, or the galleries regarded this as a foregone conclusion. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Koepka tightens his grip at Bethpage Black, Tiger misses cut
May 18, 2019 1:31 AM
 
Deploying a potent combination of powerful, audacious drives, penetrating iron-play and ruthlessly composed putting, Brooks Koepka scarcely broke sweat on Friday as he maintained his relentless assault on the intimidating Bethpage Black Golf Course at the 101st US PGA Championship. The 28-year-old began the second-round with a slender, single-stroke advantageaway from New Zealand’s Danny Lee following an imperious, 7-under opening-round 63. By the close of play on Friday evening, he had extended that advantage to seven, combining seven birdies with two bogeys to sign for a 5-under 65, and established a new record for the lowest 36-hole total in a major golf championship. He surpassed the previous low, 130, by two strokes. That record was shared by five players: Jordan Spieth (in the Masters), Martin Kaymer (the United States Open), Gary Woodland (the P.G.A.), and Brandt Snedeker and Nick Faldo (both at the British Open). WARNING: The Black Course is an extremely difficult course...unless your name is Brooks Koepka.pic.twitter.com/aqm0OgKsip— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) 17 May 2019 This was a magisterial performance from Koepka, who travelled to New York off the back of a fourth-place finish at the Wells Fargo Championship in Dallas and a runners-up finish at The Masters in Georgia in April. He birdied three of his opening four-holes to firm-up his position at the summit of the leaderboard, and while he erred in bogeying the par-4 tenth and par-3 seventeenth holes on the back-nine, a run of three birdies between holes 13-16 and an 11-foot birdie at the eighteenth ensured he departed the final green with a broad smile etched across his face. Koepka hit 15 of 18 greens on Friday; he landed 10 of 14 fairways and leads the tournament for strokes-gained approaching the green, strokes-gained tee-to-green and strokes-gained total. He is further positioned third and twelfth respectively for strokes-gained off the tee and strokes-gained putting. If the defending champion can maintain such a level of performance over the weekend, it is impossible to envisage his seven shot advantage being overturned. A resurgent Jordan Spieth sits level alongside the former world No.1, Adam Scott in second at 5-under following a second-round 66, while Dustin Johnson fronts a six-man cleavage on 4-under. “I’m really comfortable with the way I’m stroking the putter right now,” Koepka said Friday. “I feel good especially the way I battled today. I didn’t feel like I had my best game today, but I’m very proud of myself. I feel great and just need to continue what I’m doing.” Koepka’s playing-partner, Tiger Woods departed Bethpage Black’s eighteenth green espousing markedly different sentiments. The 43-year-old, making his first start since winning the Masters, suffered the ignominy of a missed cut. This marked only the ninth time in his career that he has lasted only until Friday evening of a major. A second round of 73 meant a Woods aggregate of five over. In truth he was sloppy throughout. Woods bowed out; others bowed towards Koepka’s 12 under par. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Koepka flexes muscles to seize control at US PGA Championship
May 17, 2019 7:24 AM
 
Danny Lee has struggled to fulfil the potential he demonstrated so richly upon claiming the US Amateur title in 2008 as an 18-year-old. In 316 starts over the course of 11 seasons as a professional, he has only managed one PGA Tour victory, at the 2015 Greenbrier Classic, and has never finished higher than T17 at major championship level. It is in this context that the scale of the 28-year-old’s achievement in signing for a 6-under-par opening-round 64 at the 101st US PGA Championship at Bethpage Black needs to be understood, a total that positions him within a stroke of the imperious overnight leader, Brooks Koepka. “The top 20 guys in the world make it look easy, but it’s not always fairy-tales and unicorns out here,” Lee reflected upon returning to the clubhouse. “The course is playing extremely difficult and I needed to produce some of the best golf of my career.” After two double bogeys and one birdie, Tiger Woods makes the turn at 3-over par at the PGA Championship.pic.twitter.com/5w9I9dopSS pic.twitter.com/RkYoFRJ0ey— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) 16 May 2019 Lee’s comments thus serve to set the scale of Koepka’s achievement in signing for a bogey-free 7-under 63 on Thursday in sharp relief; for not only did the defending champion beat Lee’s total by a stroke, he equalled the Bethpage Black course-record and became the first player ever to sign for major championship 63s in consecutive seasons. More significantly, he made all of this look easy and even neglected to birdie either of Bethpage’s two par-5s. Koepka’s capacity to perform at the top of his game consistently at major championship-level is bordering on the unprecedented. Three of the 28-year-old’s five career victorieson the PGA Tour are majors and he has posted five finishes of sixth or better through the course of his previous seven major starts, most recently finishing a stroke behind Tiger Woods at The Masters at Augusta. Indeed, Woods’ struggles during the opening-round in New York provided a striking counterpoint to his playing-partner’s dominance. Making his first start since ending an 11-year major championship trophy drought in April, Woods produced one of his more unorthodox rounds before signing for a 72, two over par and, crucially, nine adrift of the imperious Koepka. The 15-times major champion made a double bogey at his opening hole and did likewise at the 17th, his 8th. A requirement to shake off rust was obvious; Woods had skipped his planned practice session on Wednesday, with an explanation for that arriving during round one media duties. “I wasn’t feeling that good yesterday so I decided to stay home and rest,” Woods said. “I got a little bit sick.” Koepka, by contrast, appears to regard errors as an alien concept; indeed, his post-round reflection that, “I’ve never been this confident,” bore the tone of an ominous warning to his opponents. He looks well-placed to secure a fourth major title this weekend. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
2019 US PGA Championship betting tips
May 15, 2019 11:38 AM
 
The PGA Tour elite converge on Bethpage Black Golf Club in New York this week for the 101st edition of the US PGA Championship; here follows our top-three tips for the tournament. Outright Winner: Brooks Koepka (12/1) Perhaps unsurprisingly, Tiger Woods trades as a 9/1 favourite to claim a sixteenth-career major championship this week. The 42-year-old, making his first start since ending a nine-season major championship trophy droughtat the Masters in April, won the 2002 US Open at Bethpage Black and possesses all the physical and technical raw materials required to thrive on the 7,500-yard, A.W. Tillinghast-designed track. Nevertheless, single-digit odds are far too short a price for Woods when faced with a field containing 98-members of the world’s top-100, and one can make a stronger case for backing 10/1 second-favourite, Dustin Johnson, a narrow runner-up to Woods at Augusta, or the 11/1 third-favourite, Rory McIlroy, who has one victory and seven top-10s in nine startsthis year and a US PGA record reading: 50-22-MC-17-1-8-1-64-3-3. WARNING: The rough at Bethpage Black is extremely difficult....(via @MattFitz94) pic.twitter.com/DsdW3l69xM— GOLF.com (@GOLF_com) 15 May 2019 Nevertheless, my money is going on Brooks Koepka as a 12/1 shot. The 29-year-old claimed his third major championship victoryin a two-year stretch at the 2018 PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club in August, shooting a major-championship-record-tying 264 over 72 holes, and has top-10ed in 10 of his last 18 major starts. Indeed, Koepka finished within a stroke of Woods’ winning total at the Masters, his second runners-up of the seasonafter the Honda Classic, and arrives in New York off the back of a fourth-place finish at the Byron Nelson. With distance off the tee set to be a key factor in determining the outcome at Bethpage, Koepka’s remarkable major championship mentality may provide him a decisive edge over the rest of the field. Top-10: Sergio Garcia (40/1) Garcia has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons in 2019, from course-abuse in Saudi Arabia to score disputes at the WGC Match-Play; but despite these distractions, the 2017 Masters champion has been producing consistently good performances. Indeed, Garcia arrives in New York off the back of tied-fourth finish alongside Koepka in Dallas last week, and while he disappointed in missing the cut on the occasion of his previous start at Augusta, he has six top-10s to just one MC in 11 startssince the turn of the year and has not failed to win in a PGA/European Tour campaign since 2010. Add to this the fact that Garcia finished fourth and tenth at the 2002 and ’09 US Opens at Bethpage, and there is good reason to back the 39-year-old in the each-way market. Outsider: Jason Kokrak (125/1) The 33-year-old, who owns six professional titles, has yet to win at PGA or European Tour level; however, he travels to Bethpage in exceptional form off the back of seven top-20s in nine starts in 2019, including four top-10s, and he finished in a tie for second at the Valspar Championship in March. The value in backing Kokrak to contend as an outsider is enhanced when one accounts for the fact that he finished in a tie for seventh at Bethpageat the 2016 Barclays Championship. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Kang ties course record to take Byron Nelson lead
May 11, 2019 9:40 AM
 
Sunghoon Kang was not much talked about in the lead-up to this week’s AT&T Byron Nelson at Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas. After all, the 31-year-old arrived in Texas off the back of a missed-cut on the occasion of his previous PGA Tour start at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow last week, and while he impressed in tying for sixth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in March, he has still missed as many cut marks as he has registered top-10 finishesthrough 11 starts in 2019. Indeed, Kang has not won a professional golf tournament since triumphing at the CJ Invitational and Kolon Korea Cup in quick succession on Asian Tour in the autumn of 2013 and, in 158 career PGA Tour appearancessince making his US debut back in 2011, he had registered just 15 top-10 finishes. Put simply, Kang did not arrive at Trinity Forest Golf Club this week bearing the hallmarks of a player poised to equal a course-record round on route to seizing a four-shot 36-hole advantage. Ever wondered how a PGA TOUR player works out?Go behind the scenes with AT&T Byron Nelson leader Sung Kang in the gym. pic.twitter.com/qPm61hmNvX— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) 11 May 2019 Yet golf, being the eternally capricious enterprise that is it, permitted precisely such a circumstance to evolve and the world No. 138 consequently tees-off for the weekend with a real chance of claiming a maiden PGA Tour victory. Kang was nigh-on faultless on Friday, opening with a 9-foot birdie on the par-5 first- hole. His approach to within a foot of the cup at the 311-yard No. 5 set up a string of six consecutive birdies leading into the turn, and he had three more birdies in four holes on the back nine. Indeed, the South Korean’s only par in that stretch was at the 441-yard par-4 15th, where he had his putter raised in the air in anticipation of another birdie. The 21-foot chance instead lipped the cup. He ultimately needed to content himself with a 10-under 61 and a four-stroke halfway leadaway from playing partner Matt Every, who had his second consecutive round of 65, and Tyler Duncan (66). Brooks Koepka, the world's No. 3-ranked player who goes to next week's PGA Championship as defending champion, was fourth at 11 under after a 66. He overcame two early bogeys with six birdies in an 11-hole stretch that included four in a row late-on. The closing 36-holes of this tournament will provide a rigorous test of Yang’s mentality, and with golfers of the calibre of Koepka still in touching distance of the lead, he can ill-afford even the merest hint of profligacy. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
2019 AT&T Byron Nelson betting tips: Back Leishman for the title
May 9, 2019 2:08 AM
 
The PGA Tour travels to Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas for the AT&T Byron Nelson championship this week, with the second major of the season at Bethpage Black just days away. Here follows our best bets for the week. Winner: Marc Leishman (25/1) Inaugurated in 1944 as the Dallas Open, the very first AT&T Byron Nelson Championship was won by the man who the event is now named after, and a winner’s list featuring Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Fred Couples, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods speaks to the event’s historic popularity among the PGA Tour elite. Since the turn of the millennium, however, the Nelson has fallen on hard times. Declining sponsorship revenues and poor course selections have precipitated a commensurate decline in the quality of the fields contesting the event. The same pattern has essentially recurred this year, and while the presence of world No.3 Brooks Koepka at the summit of the betting market at 10/1 is encouraging, he is the only member of the top-10 in attendance. A weak field, combined with an unpredictable, wind-swept links-style golf course makes for a highly protean betting market and we can expect outsiders to contend seriously over the weekend. Indeed, none of the three frontrunners, Koepka, Hideki Matsuyama (14/1) and Jordan Spieth (18/1) appeal. For although Koepka impressed with a runners-up finish on the occasion of his previous start at the US Masters last month, his apparent disinterest in winning in regular Tour events is conspicuous. Three of Koepka’s five PGA Tour victories have been majors and, with his US PGA title defence just around the corner, there is reason to be scepticalregarding the extent of his motivation in Texas this week. #TigerTuesdaysHammering driver off the deck at the Byron Nelson. pic.twitter.com/EZiQzXJOrJ— Skratch (@Skratch) 7 May 2019 The issue with Spieth and Matsuyama, by contrast, is form. Spieth’s struggles have been well-documented. The three-time major winner is without a top-10 finish since tying for ninth at The Open last July and has plummeted down as low as the fringes of the world’s top-40. It is also notable that the Texan’s best Nelson finish was his tie for 16th in his first start in 2010 at TPC Four Seasons at Las Colinas; his second-best finish (T-21) came last year in the debut of Trinity Forest. Matsuyama, meantime, continues to struggle on the greens most weeks, which is why he hasn't looked like winning in some time. He's managed a couple of top-10s (the Genesis Open and the Players) since he finished third at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines January; however, he struggled badly with the putter at Augusta (T32) and his 18-month barren runlooks set to endure. In this context, Marc Leishman attracts as a 25/1 shot. The Aussie led this tournament through 54-holeslast year only to have his title charge undone by a stunning final-round performance from rookie, Aaron Wise, and he arrives in Dallas in solid form. Leishman finished 2018 on a high by claiming his fourth PGA Tour victory at the CIMB Classic and has gone on to record four top-10s in nine starts since the turn of the year, including a T3 at the Sony Open in Hawaii in January. Back the world No.22 to claim his first victory of the season on Sunday. Outsider: Scottie Scheffler (80/1) The 22-year-old ended 2018 ranked 1,589th in the world, but following an incredible run of six top 10s on the Web.com Tour he is now up to No.220and looks a dangerous outsider at Trinity Forest this week. It is also notable that Scheffler was born in Dallas and grew-up playing the links-style track. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Woods seals victory for the ages at Augusta
Apr 15, 2019 1:17 PM
 
From time to time, sport can produce outcomes that defy conventional analysis; moments of such raw emotional power that journalistic prose is rendered incapable of accounting adequately for the drama and cultural import of the events that unfolded. We witnessed one such moment at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia on Sunday evening as Tiger Woods ended a 14-year wait for a fifth green jacket and an 11-year wait for a fifteenth major championship title, claiming the 83rd Masters by two-strokes away from Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Xander Schauffele. Tiger Woods' stunning victory at the Masters tournament Sunday had big rewards for brands that stuck with him. Here are the winners and losers at the Masters. https://t.co/wbwPm2GV2i pic.twitter.com/MYcHxfvuGR— Bloomberg (@business) 15 April 2019 Most remarkable of all, of course, is the fact that he achieved this feat less than 24 months after conceding to close friend, Mark O’Meara that he doubted he would ever play again. Indeed, it bears restating that Woods has undergone seven major back surgeries in the last 10-years, the last a spinal-fusion procedure in 2016, and has endured a sequence of high-profile public humiliations (from the shocking breakdown of his marriage in 2009to his DUI arrest in 2017) sufficient to drive most celebrities permanently out from the public eye. Not Tiger; for better or worse, Woods has always been made of sterner stuff and it felt fitting that he completed arguably the greatest renaissance in sports history at the same venue where he began altering the shape of golf in 1997. Twenty-two years on, a 43-year-old Woods celebrated more wildly than ever before in the company of his mother and children. Remarkably, it was the first time he had ever triumphed at a major from the position of having trailed after 54-holes. It would require the pagination of a telephone book to account fully for the drama that unfolded on the back-nine at Augusta on Sunday. Woods began the day in a tie for second-place with Tony Finau at 11-under, two-strokes shy of the 54-hole leader, Francesco Molinari, and despite reducing the deficit to a single shot upon reaching the fourth tee-box, Molinari had restored a two-shot lead by the time the final group reached the turn. It was on the back-nine that the tournament shifted in Woods’ favour and, as has been the case on so many occasions in the past, the notorious, 147-yard, par-3 twelfth-hole was to prove decisive. First Koepka found the water off the tee, effectively ending his title charge; 10-minutes later, Molinari’s miscued iron shot bounced from the bank and into the most famous stream in golf. It was the least surprising Sunday act that Woods took dead aim for the centre of the green and made a routine par. Molinari’s double-bogey dropped him back to a share of the lead at 11 under.Woods, smelling blood, went on to make birdies at the 13th and 15th holes to seize the outright lead even as Schauffele and Johnson made late surges for the title in the group ahead. Then came what was perhaps his shot of the tournament, a perfect 8-iron at the par-3 16th -- where two aces were made Sunday -- that landed on a slope and trickled down toward the cup, sliding just past the hole. He made the 4-footer for birdie and a two-shot lead. Tiger, young or old, does not fritter that away. Woods had two putts for victory at that 18th; in adding to the drama, he used them. "This is just unreal, to be honest with you,'' Woods reflected. "Just the whole tournament has meant so much to me over the years. Coming here in '95 for the first time and being able to play as an amateur. Winning in '97 and then come full circle 22 years later, to be able to do it again. And just the way it all transpired today.” This was a richly deserved triumph for Woods; suddenly Jack Nicklaus’ record 18-major titles seems back up for grabs. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Molinari poised to frustrate Woods at Augusta
Apr 14, 2019 6:45 AM
 
Tiger Woods has likely grown sick of the sight of Francesco Molinari. Just nine-months after the Italian brushed off a Sunday partnership with Woods to claim his maiden major championship titleat The Open at St Andrews, he is once again poised to frustrate the American’s pursuit of a fifteenth career major championship title. Woods will tee-off for the final-round of the 83rd Masters level with Tony Finau at 11 under par, two adrift of Molinari’s outright lead, and one clear of the three-time major winner, Brooks Koepka who remains very much in contention for the green jacket at 10-under. It’s been 14 years since @TigerWoods last won the Masters. Predictions for his final round today? pic.twitter.com/nvz6bwFZqk — PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) 14 April 2019 But as the last 54-holes of golf have made abundantly clear, Woods faces an enormous challenge in seeking to displace the Italian at the summit of the leaderboard; indeed, it cannot be overlooked that all 14 of his major championship titles have been claimed from the position of having held the third-round lead and he benefitted from some quite extraordinary good fortune on Saturday. The 43-year-old found clear paths towards greens despite drives pushed into trees at the 9th and 11th. As he sought to bite off more of the dog leg at the 13th than was safe, it seemed Woods would finally run out of luck. Not so; his ball rebounded from trees and into semi-rough, from where he was able to produce a birdie. Indeed, by the time the former world No.1 carded his sixth birdie of the afternoon on the par-3 sixteenth-hole, he had drawn level for the lead; Augusta began to pulse with a sense of optimistic energy and excitement at the prospect of his claiming a fifth green jacket, 14-years after last triumphing at the Masters. “It's been a while since I've been in contention here,” Woods reflectedafter signing for a 5-under third-round of 67. “But then again, (being in the mix to win) the last two majors counts for something.” Indeed, the 80-time PGA Tour winner shot a final-round 64 to finish second to Koepka at the most recent major, the PGA Championship last August; at The Open Championship the month before that, he signed for a final-round 71 to finish in a tie for sixth. It may well be the case that such recent experience of contending for the sport’s top honours has provided Woods with the crucial psychological edge that will push him over the line on Sunday. To be sure, however, Molinari will not make things easy for the crowd-favourite. The 36-year-old birdied four holes in-a-row between 12 and 16 en route to a 6-under 66 on Saturday and, as if to underline his remarkable composure as a front-runner, he has not carded a single bogey since the eleventh-hole of his opening round. Molinari claimed his third PGA Tour victoryat the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in March, signing for an 8-under closing-round 64 in the process, and arrived at Augusta ranked No.7 in the worldoff the back of a third-place finish at the WGC-Dell Match Play. It is a testament, ultimately to the insularity of the popular American sporting consciousness that he was not treated more seriously as a potential winner in the lead-up to this event. Molinari may well underscore this point by claiming a maiden green jacket on Sunday. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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